Every summer gardeners delight in their harvest of home grown tomatoes. From the hearty beef steak and slicing varieties to petit cherry and grape tomatoes to the flavorful plum tomatoes, they all have their place on the dining room table. No matter how you serve them or what recipe that you use, learning some basic techniques for preparing them is a definite must.
In this blog, I will focus on two techniques that can be used to prep your tomatoes for any number of uses. In the first series, I illustrate a series of steps used to hollow out the tomatoes in preparation for stuffing. When they are finished they can be stuffed for baking or with cold salads such as shrimp or chicken for a tasty light lunch or as a first course for a dinner. I like this way of hollowing out the tomatoes because it is a quick and efficient way to create a cavernous hole in the tomato for maximum filling. Once finished the cores can be used to make a tomato soup or a sauce.
Hollowing out the tomatoes in preparation for stuffing takes three steps:
- Place the tomato core side down and cut a deep circle (slightly more than 3/4 of the way through the tomato) in the tomato making sure not to cut all the way through the tomato
- Insert the paring knife into the bottom of the tomato and slicing with an arching movement release the core (make sure not to cut the initial incision any larger than necessary)
- Once the core is released pull out the core and reserve it for another use.
The tomato is now ready to be stuffed. See my July blog post for the Indian spiced ground lamb and Basmati rice recipe for a tasty filling.
The second series involves the steps used for peeling and seeding tomatoes. The tomatoes once peeled and de-seeded can be utilized in many ways for different recipes. One such use is for the classic, tomato concasse, which is considered to be a foundational procedure in culinary circles and taught to students and apprentices. Tomato concasse is defined as roughly chopped tomatoes that have first been peeled and de-seeded. One of my recipes for peeled seeded tomatoes is as a Smoked tomato relish that I use for grilled steaks or chicken breasts. In the next two series of images are the steps for peeling and de-seeding tomatoes, images by Harry Katz/Missouri Life.
Steps one through four are clockwise from the top left-hand corner:
- Cut out the core with a paring knife
- Cut a small x in the bottom of the tomatoes
- Then briefly plunge the tomatoes in rapid boiling salted water for about a minute or less (known as blanching)
- Once the skins start to blister remove the tomatoes and chill quickly in ice water. This helps to release the peel of the tomatoes
The final steps for peeling and de-seeding tomatoes are:
5. Peel the chilled tomatoes with a paring knife
6. Cut in half across the diameter of the tomatoes
7. Using a paring knife scrape out the seeds while squeezing the tomatoes.
Once peeled and de-seeded the tomatoes are ready to be smoked by using the indirect smoking method with wood chips in covered BBQ grill for use in a Smoked Tomato Relish. They can also be used for tomato concasse or other recipes.
Smoked Tomato Relish
Yield 2 1/2 to 3 cups
1/4 cup Shallots, finely diced
1 teaspoon Black pepper
1 teaspoon Granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons Fresh basil chopped
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
¾ cup Extra virgin olive oil
5 each Medium slicing tomatoes
- Blanch, peel and de-seed the tomatoes,
- Indirect smoke with wood chips for 10 minutes,
- Remove the tomatoes from the smoker and cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature,
- In a large bowl mix the shallots, black pepper, sugar, basil and salt with the balsamic vinegar,
- Whisk in the olive oil,
- Dice the tomatoes and mix in,
- Serve with grilled steak or chicken.
Growing tomatoes and then preparing them in unique and delicious ways for your family and friends always brings twice the satisfaction. Enjoy and keep on cooking!